Imperialism

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Author: David Healy
Editors: Richard Dean Burns , Alexander DeConde , and Fredrik Logevall
Date: 2002
Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 8
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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IMPERIALISM


Imperialism

David Healy

Imperialism, in its most precise traditional usage, means the forcible extension of governmental control over foreign areas not designated for incorporation as integral parts of the nation. The term is commonly used to mean any significant degree of national influence, public or private, over other societies; but to some it refers principally to foreign economic exploitation with or without other actions. In all usages, however, the essential element is that one society must in some way impose itself upon another in a continuing unequal relationship. Thus, American expansionism dated from the beginning of the national experience, while its evolution into true imperialism occurred only in the later nineteenth century.

CONTINENTAL EXPANSION

The expansion of the United States from 1803 to 1853 into contiguous areas such as Louisiana, Florida, Texas, the Oregon territories, and the Mexican cession is not best described as imperialism, although it contained related elements. This expansion involved lightly populated areas in which the influx of settlement from the older portions of the nation soon constituted the great bulk of the inhabitants. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, a profoundly anti-imperialist measure, had early defined the process by which such areas could be divided into prospective states and ultimately brought into the union as equal members. The resulting expansion represented the continuous extension of a single society over vast neighboring areas, rather than the takeover of one society by another.

The North American continent was not unoccupied; indigenous Indian tribes were found in every part of it, while the areas taken from Mexico contained many scattered settlements, particularly in California and around Santa Fe. Neither the people nor the government of the United States showed much interest in such preexisting societies; the aim of the United States was to brush them aside and replace them with the society and culture of the incoming majority. This was particularly true in regard to the Indians; rather than take over Indian society, the whites virtually destroyed it. The process was tragic for its victims, and Americans' constant assertions that they were peopling an empty continent contained the seeds of hypocrisy. There were nevertheless important differences between the movement of such a settlement frontier and the establishment of a true empire. For example, while the United States acquired half of Mexico's national territory between 1845 and 1848, the transfer entailed less than 2 percent of the Mexican population. Broadly speaking, the Mexican War was fought to gain territory, not a captive people, and the land thus gained would be populated largely from the existing United States. For purposes of comparison, the activities of the British in India, where they ruled a teeming alien society, and the British in Australia, where they settled a continent and built a self-governing nation, were so dissimilar that the use of a single term to describe both cases does more to obscure than enlighten. Prior to the Civil War, American expansion came closer to the Australian example, though dispossessing a more numerous indigenous people, and the end result cannot be accurately classified as imperialism.

There were, of course, common features in the earlier expansion and later imperialism of the United States. Chief among these were a strong sense of national mission and special destiny, a general confidence in the unique superiority of American institutions, a belief in the inequality of races and peoples, and the very habit of expansion itself. The expansionism of "manifest destiny" could lead toward true imperialism, as in the abortive movement to annex all of Mexico during the Mexican War. If westward expansionPage 218  |  Top of Article was not the same as imperialism, it furnished some of the materials out of which the latter could grow.

POST–CIVIL WAR PERIOD

The purchase of Alaska in 1867 ended the period when new territory was assumed to be on the path to eventual statehood. By that time the nation's policymakers were already debating a new and more truly imperialist form of expansion. Schemes to acquire Cuba, by purchase or otherwise, had been current from 1848 onward, while in 1870 the Ulysses S. Grant administration negotiated the annexation of the Dominican Republic, only to see the Senate reject the instrumental treaty. Critics of this latter scheme were quick to point out the break with tradition implicit in the quest for territory already compactly settled by an alien society. Such a society could be assimilated into the nation proper only with great difficulty and over a long period, or more probably it could not be assimilated at all. Thus, the United States had to choose between incorporating an unassimilated people into its federal system, thereby endangering its integrity, or ruling them as colonial subjects in violation of the right to self-government supposedly inherent in the American political system. Foreshadowed by the earlier opposition to the all-Mexico movement of the late 1840s, the Senate debate over the annexation of the Dominican Republic developed the main lines of the controversy over imperialist expansion and marked the maturing of an active anti-imperialism in the United States.

For a generation after 1870, projects for further expansion attracted little support in the United States, and most people assumed that imperialism had become a dead issue. A number of developments, however, prepared the nation for imperial ventures at the end of the century. Chief were the rapid industrialization and soaring productivity of the national economy, which made the United States the leading industrial power by 1900. Increasingly conscious of their numbers, wealth, and strength, and proud of their unique institutions and sprawling territory, Americans began to aspire to a place for their country among the world's great powers. The severe economic depression of the 1890s added material aims to the drive for prestige, as the nation's business leaders and political spokesmen hoped for economic salvation in increased exports of American manufactures. By the mid-1890s, a new mood had brought a reappraisal of America's world position.

While largely internal forces first prompted the nation's leaders to look outward, the global sweep of European imperialism was reaching its high point, providing both the model and the final impetus for the new activism. Initially, Americans reacted to European imperialism as a threat to be repelled, fearing its penetration into the Western Hemisphere. Still mindful of France's incursion into Mexico in the 1860s, Americans were startled by a French project in 1879 to build a ship canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Later they also came to see Great Britain as a potential interloper, inspiring Secretary of State Richard Olney to a famous warning against such penetration during the Venezuelan crisis of 1895. Fears of European encroachment undoubtedly added urgency to the drive for Hawaiian annexation after 1894 and figured in discussions of Caribbean expansion later in the decade. One result of such fears was advocacy of a sort of preemptive imperialism, a conviction that the United States should seize desirable areas before a rival power got them.

In addition, the constant example of the European powers in time led many in the United States to take a more positive view of imperialism. Thirsting for national prestige, they saw that colonies were highly valued status symbols in Europe and that colonial empires had already swallowed up most of the non-Western world. Furthermore, if Europeans claimed to spread civilization to unenlightened peoples, did not the United States have a more compelling mission to implant its own superior institutions? Finally, the theorists of the Old World had proclaimed that colonial empires could provide strategic bases, captive markets, raw materials, and investment opportunities—in short, could alleviate the persistent distresses from which the American economy suffered.

By 1895 a small but growing number of American politicians, publicists, naval officers, and businessmen supported a modest expansionist program. This generally included the annexation of Hawaii, the acquisition of one or more base areas in the West Indies, and the construction of an isthmian canal across Central America to facilitate naval and mercantile movement between the eastern United States and the Pacific Ocean. Some also aspired to the peaceable annexation of Canada, while others wished to challengePage 219  |  Top of Article British political and economic leadership in South America. But virtually all limited their ambitions to the Western Hemisphere, and most to areas traditionally within the sphere of American interests. While this program fell short of a full-fledged scheme of empire, it gave a specific direction to expansionist currents and reinforced the appeal of the imperialist idea.

Many Americans continued to be suspicious of imperialism, but others found that it was increasingly easy to identify imperialism with many aspects of the American tradition. Territorial expansion, a strong sense of national mission, and a dynamic economic growth had been dominant themes in American history. The belief in the inequality of man, which imperialism demanded, offered few problems at a time when the South was even then perfecting a system of segregation and disfranchisement of blacks, the West was in the final stages of suppressing the Indians, and the East fulminated against the inferiority of the new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Currently popular theories of social Darwinism held that the various races of man progressed at differing rates according to their place on the evolutionary scale, or failed to progress and fell victim to "natural selection." No one believed more devoutly in progress than Americans, and the presumed duty of carrying progress to backward lands was popularly called "the white man's burden." This combined belief in progress and human inequality, along with boundless self-confidence and a hope of gain, constituted the principal attitudes that underlay imperialism.

Whether the imperialist appeal was chiefly economic, psychological, nationalist, or idealistic has long been the subject of contention. In fact, it was all of these, and perhaps more. The most fundamental explanation of the global imperialism of the nineteenth century was that the Western world, containing a relatively small minority of the world's people, had achieved a virtual monopoly of effective power. The development of the nation-state enabled the effective mobilization of a society's resources, and coincided with the growth of modern science and industrialization. The latter developments created societies of unprecedented wealth and armed them with weapons of unparalleled destructiveness, while the steamship, the railroad, the telegraph, and the oceanic cable greatly diminished the distances that separated the Western peoples from the rest of the world.

The disparity of power between "modern" and preindustrial societies reached its maximum in the nineteenth century, and it was this disparity that was, quite directly, the driving force behind the breakneck colonialism of the period. Conscious of their strength and brought into close contact with weaker peoples, Europeans quickly developed a sense of superiority and discovered desirable goals to seek in vulnerable foreign places. The process soon created its own mystique, which could be shared by almost any member-state in the Western world. While American imperialism had special national characteristics—as did that of England, France, Germany, and other nations—during the 1890s, American imperialism was not essentially different from the parent European variety. Its American disciples believed otherwise, having as firm a faith in their own uniqueness as their European rivals.

THE ERA OF GLOBAL IMPERIALISM

Although this new thinking rapidly gained ground during the 1890s, it took the shock of tangible events to bridge the gap between ideas and action. After a revolution in Hawaii, which American officials actively abetted, the proposed annexation of Hawaii in 1893 reawakened the debate over colonial expansion but was blocked by the transfer of the presidency from Benjamin Harrison to Grover Cleveland. It was rather the revolt that began in Cuba in 1895 that ultimately mobilized the emotions and ideas of the new expansionism. In 1898 the United States was drawn into a struggle between Cuba and Spain that had brought mass suffering and wholesale destruction to its very borders. An aggressive national pride, emotional partisanship in favor of the Cubans, and tangible damage to American trade and property—all worked to arouse the public and the press, while the dramatic destruction of the battleship Maine acted as a spark to these combustibles. Originally regarded by most Americans as a crusade to free Cuba, the Spanish-American War quickly took on an expansionist thrust. The retention of Puerto Rico, Spain's other Caribbean colony, was soon regarded as a necessary war reparation. Strategically the key to the Pacific, Hawaii was annexed during the war by a joint resolution of Congress. Even the cries to free Cuba gave way to protests that the Cubans needed a period of tutelage before essaying complete self-government.

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It was the Philippine Islands, however, that most forcefully brought the imperialist issue to a head. Large, populous, alien, and distant, they neither fell within the traditional geographical scope of American expansionism nor seemed even remotely assimilable to the American federal system. In the United States there had been little thought of acquiring the Philippines before the Spanish-American War, but once war came, the U.S. armed forces attacked them because they represented valuable enemy territory that was highly vulnerable. The initial American victories quickly led to a national conviction that the United States now controlled the islands and was responsible for determining their destiny. Expansionists were quick to argue that the nation should not turn the Filipinos back to Spanish misrule, while to let them drift would invite an Anglo-German struggle for their control. On the other hand, American rule could bring enlightenment to the islands, and their proximity to China might aid American penetration of what was assumed to be one of the great world markets of the future.

Expansionism carried the day, and the peace treaty with Spain provided for American possession of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam. Hawaii had already been separately annexed, and Cuba was subjected to a three-year military occupation followed by a theoretically sovereign independence in 1902. In fact, however, Cuba became a self-governing protectorate of the United States, with the latter nation retaining important governmental controls and the right of military intervention at its discretion, under the terms of the Platt Amendment of 1901. In the Philippines, meanwhile, an armed independence movement revolted against American rule in 1899, and the ensuing three-year Filipino-American War introduced the Americans to the frustrations and mutual atrocities characteristic of antiguerrilla warfare. The public had expected the Filipinos to greet the advent of American rule with cheers and were disillusioned to meet with hostility instead. Critics questioned the utility of the new colony and the morality of subduing it by force. While U.S. forces finally succeeded in crushing all resistance, anti-imperialists made the most of the contradictions inherent in spreading enlightenment at the point of a bayonet. Colonial empire quickly lost its glamour in the United States, while less formal techniques of expansion gained easier acceptance from the relative success of the Cuban protectorate program. In the twentieth century, American imperialism would be characterized by the extension of influence or control rather than by the outright annexation of territory.

THE ADVENT OF INFORMAL EMPIRE

After 1900 the American public lost interest in its new colonies, but the United States continued to expand its power in essentially imperialist ways. This was true principally in the Caribbean region, where the creation of formal and informal protectorates characterized American foreign policy in the period after the Spanish-American War. The war had spurred interest in the building of an isthmian canal, which was to be built as a national project; and following Panama's secession from Colombia in 1903, the project became a reality. The great strategic importance of the Panama Canal, thereafter joined with the considerable American stake in Cuba and its direct sovereignty over Puerto Rico, drew the nation further into Caribbean affairs.

Still fearful of European intervention and solicitous of the growing American economic interest in the area, policymakers in Washington viewed the chronic political instability of the Caribbean and Central American nations as an invitation to foreign penetration and an obstacle to local development. The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, enunciated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, claimed for the United States an "international police power," which entailed a general right to intervene and keep order in the Western Hemisphere. Not only Roosevelt but his successors, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, steadily expanded American hegemony in the Caribbean. By World War I, Cuba, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua were in some kind of protectorate status, while Puerto Rico remained an outright colony. Actual military interventions occurred in Cuba (1906–1909), Haiti (1915–1934), the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), Nicaragua (1912, 1927–1933), and Panama (intermittently and on a lesser scale).

Besides the use of special treaty relationships and military force, the United States attempted to maintain a "monopoly of lending," under which Caribbean governments would borrow money only in the United States; it also established customs receiverships in several countries, which effectively placed their government revenues under control of the United States. Meanwhile, private enterprise had permeated the region withPage 221  |  Top of Article American investment and business activity, while the one-crop economies of the Caribbean nations made them heavily dependent upon the American market. Thus, the nominally sovereign states of the Caribbean area were subject to American controls, both formal and informal, which made their real status essentially colonial.

After 1898, the United States was also active in the Far East, but its impact was weaker there than in the Caribbean. Faced with a huge and populous China, and competing with most of the other major world powers, American policymakers could not aspire to regional dominance or military solutions. The "dollar diplomacy" of the William Howard Taft administration (1909–1913) attempted to foster American investment in China and to create international financial arrangements, which would impose a Caribbean-style "monopoly of lending" upon the government of China. This attempt to mobilize American economic strength as a diplomatic tool accomplished little in the Far East, however, on account of both the difficulties of the situation itself and the limited interest of the nation's business and financial leaders. The earlier Open Door policy of 1899–1900, therefore, remained the principal basis of policy. It represented little more than an attempt to obtain a general agreement to preserve the existing treaty system of shared control in China, and thus equality of economic opportunity in China for the United States. The policy was not very effective, and the Chinese market never came near to meeting the inflated expectations of the West. In general, the limited objectives and relative ineffectiveness of American activities in the Far East fell well short of real imperialism in this period, although the United States was long a party to the treaty system by which the Western powers jointly had imposed a limited protectorate upon China.

ISOLATIONISM AND THE WORLD WARS

American participation in World War I led to a revulsion against overseas commitments, which reached its peak in the Senate rejection of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the new League of Nations. Rising domestic criticism in the 1920s brought about the liquidation of the military government in the Dominican Republic and moderate relaxation of American political controls elsewhere in the Caribbean. At the same time, however, the U.S. government and business community cooperated in pushing American exports and foreign loans, leading some later historians to envision an "open door imperialism" based on American economic influence abroad. An alternate view was that the United States did indeed seek such economic influence, but that most Americans then thought it possible to separate the political and economic aspects of international relations in a manner considered unrealistic by later generations.

The Great Depression of the 1930s brought an even greater emphasis on the economic side of foreign policy and a corresponding decline in interest in other aspects. The Good Neighbor policy of Franklin D. Roosevelt brought the dismantling of Caribbean military interventions andPage 222  |  Top of Article political protectorates, at the same time that Latin America was tied more closely to the American economy by means of reciprocal trade agreements. The Philippine Islands were set on the path to independence in 1934, while the Neutrality Acts of 1935–1938 were designed to minimize economic ties to belligerents in foreign wars. The Monroe Doctrine took on a new theoretical formulation as an association of hemispheric equals for collective security, and the isolationist majority in the United States eschewed any national interest in the world's affairs outside the Western Hemisphere. American imperialism was declared to be dead, never to arise again.

At the end of the 1930s there was a rapid reversal of thinking largely caused by the early victories of Nazi Germany during the new European war, and particularly by the shock created by the fall of France in 1940. Americans quickly became internationalists, the new consensus being that the world's democracies must stand together to check the crimes of "gangster nations" like Germany, Italy, and Japan. It now appeared that peace was indivisible and that the United States must be concerned with events in every corner of the globe. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor late in 1941, the United States went to war in both Europe and Asia. During World War II, the United States fought as a member of a coalition that included Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, and many lesser members—a circumstance that drew the United States even further into global affairs. Mobilizing enormous fighting power and productivity, Americans found themselves at the close of the struggle with their armed forces deployed in Europe, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, Australasia, and Latin America.

THE COLD WAR AND ITS AFTERMATH

World War II humbled or drastically weakened every great power except the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which emerged with greatly enhanced power and prestige. In a world full of power vacuums, this dangerously simplified bipolar balance contributed to a growing rivalry between the two superpowers, as did the strong but mutually contradictory ideas of mission that each possessed. Initially competing for hegemony in Europe, this postwar rivalry soon became global in scope, and American military and political commitments proliferated. At the same time, the preeminent economic position of the United States at the end of World War II much enhanced its influence abroad and gave it great weight in shaping the economic structure of the noncommunist world. Thus, American influence over other societies reached a new high and took many different forms. In the Caribbean, the United States supported anticommunist military ventures in Guatemala (1954) and Cuba (1961), and in 1965, out of fear that a leftist government would come to power, intervened in the Dominican Republic. In East Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, and, later, South Vietnam and Cambodia became heavily dependent upon U.S. military aid. Japan grew into an economic giant but retained close ties to the United States. Other initiatives in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere made American activities truly global.

In the economic sphere, the United States overwhelmingly became the chief investor, source of credit, and supplier of new technologies. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the American dollar was the yardstick of international currency exchanges, while an American-sponsored drive toward freer world trade facilitated American exports of goods and money. The purchase of foreign subsidiaries and the development of multinational corporations gave American business enterprise increased influence abroad, while many foreign nations found their principal export markets in the United States.

The political and economic impact of the United States was accompanied by significant social effects. American-style mass consumption spread its appeal everywhere, as the elite of half the globe rushed to emulate the lifestyles of New York and California. American tourists, motion pictures, and television programs went everywhere, while students flocked to American universities from all over the world. Even an economically advanced country like Japan assimilated American models of dress and amusement, and readily accepted bondage to the automobile.

Some viewed the international vogue of American lifestyles and consumer products as cultural imperialism, or a thinly veiled form of economic exploitation. Others deplored the subversion of native cultures and the consequent destabilization of traditional societies by the tide of westernization. Many twenty-first-century scholars, however, are skeptical of the idea of a one-sided cultural aggression, citing the eagerness with which Eastern Europeans and others sought Western fashions, films, and popularPage 223  |  Top of Article music even when their governments attempted to shut these things out. In this view, developments in the Western world have set off an irresistible global cultural change, in which cross-fertilization complicates any notion of a simple one-way influence. Terms such as "modernization" and "globalization" are used to suggest a generalized force beyond the control of any one society. It was nevertheless the United States that led the way in the process.

In any case, the worldwide distribution of U.S. military bases, security agreements, investments, multinational corporations, foreign-aid programs, and open and undercover political activities gave rise to the charge that American imperialism had not only revived but had expanded over enormous areas. Some critics described an "open door empire" in which American foreign policy sought to impose everywhere the conditions necessary for the penetration of American exports and enterprise, while keeping underdeveloped nations in a state of perpetual economic colonialism. From this point of view, the term "imperialism" applied to virtually every overseas activity of the United States.

Given the undeniably great impact of the United States in the postwar world, the issue was not whether there had been an American influence on other societies but whether that influence was best described as imperialism. Since the United States annexed no territory during the period in question, the most obvious form of imperialism does not apply; there was no formal empire. There were, however, attempts at neo-imperial control of other states. In 1965 the Dominican Republic experienced a U.S. military intervention that imposed a new president, who was retained in power for many years by the active use of American influence and machinations of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Ronald Reagan administration (1981–1989) supported civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua in an attempt to bolster right-wing regimes against leftist opponents. Other cases could be cited, but blanket assertions of imperialism went too far. It was doubtful terminology to apply that label to the postwar American record in Europe. It is true that the United States threw its influence into an effort to erect a liberal-capitalist system in Western Europe, just as the Soviet Union worked for Marxist-Leninist states in Eastern Europe. Given a virtual power vacuum in one of the world's vital centers, no less was to be expected of either superpower. It is also true that the Marshall Plan and companion policies were designed not only to aid European economic recovery but to boost European purchases of American exports. Yet the end result was not merely exploitive, for it helped to recreate in Western Europe one of the great industrial centers of the world, which soon offered stiff competition to the United States itself. Like Japan, West Germany pressed American manufacturers hard in their own markets and often bested them in markets abroad. In time, many European states became effective competitors. To call this performance economic imperialism is both misleading and intellectually counterproductive.

The U.S. military intervention in Southeast Asia during the 1960s ended in the following decade in humiliating failure and a national reappraisal of the American role abroad. For a time, the shadow of Vietnam inhibited further overseas adventures, but the global network of American commitments and interests continued largely intact. Foreign involvements reappeared with the previously mentioned Reagan administration's activities in Central America, as well as its military deployments in Grenada (1983) and Lebanon (1984), but on a limited scale.

The end of the Cold War in 1989 and the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union changed the global situation fundamentally, leaving the United States as the only superpower. The Cold War justification for foreign military interventions thereby disappeared, but new reasons for such ventures multiplied. In varying scales of magnitude, U.S. armed forces were deployed in Panama (1989), Somalia (1992), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1995), and Kosovo (1999), the latter including a bombing campaign against Serbia. By far the largest overseas operation was the Gulf War of 1991 against Iraq, which involved more than 500,000 U.S. troops to protect the industrial world's oil supply, but motives for the other interventions varied widely. In Somalia, for example, where no visible U.S. interests were at stake, the goal was to remove the obstacles to feeding a starving population, and in Bosnia and Kosovo it was to prevent the out-break of regional war and prevent mass genocide. Some saw the United States as world policeman, others as global bully, but none could deny the reality of the nation's power and influence virtually everywhere on the globe.

As the world's strongest and wealthiest nation for the last half century, the United States was responsible for its full share of neo-imperialist hegemony. At times, however, it acted abroad in conjunction with less powerful nations thatPage 224  |  Top of Article lacked the American capacity to project force quickly to crisis areas. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Gulf War both saw U.S. military power enlisted in the service of a broad coalition of nations and interests. Operating within a highly competitive global economy, U.S. economic power was great but hardly hegemonic, while its cultural influences were eagerly received in large parts of the world even if deeply resented in others. No single definition can contain the enormous variety of American activities, motives, and effects on the world; certainly the term "imperialism" cannot.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gienow-Hecht, Jessica C. E. "Shame on US? Academics, Cultural Transfer, and the Cold War—A Critical Review." Diplomatic History 24 (summer 2000). Traces the evolving debate about U.S. cultural expansion since 1945.

Healy, David. U.S. Expansionism: The Imperialist Urge in the 1890s. Madison, Wis., 1970. A multi-causal approach that shows the convergence of numerous and dissimilar forces in the movement for overseas empire.

Hollander, Paul. Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965–1990. New York, 1992. A stimulating look at the views of the naysayers, domestic and foreign.

LaFeber, Walter. The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860–1898. Ithaca, N.Y., 1963. Depicts American overseas expansion as creating a commercial empire in order to serve a drive for export markets.

Lundestad, Geir. The American "Empire" and Other Studies of U.S. Foreign Policy in a Comparative Prospect. New York, 1990. Explores the ambiguities of American power abroad.

May, Ernest R. Imperial Democracy: The Emergence of America as a Great Power. New York, 1961. Sees the expansionism of 1898 in terms of an eruption of public opinion that swept the nation's leaders before it.

Rosenberg, Emily S. Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890–1945. New York, 1982. A useful broad-gauge approach.

Thornton, A. P. Doctrines of Imperialism. New York, 1965. A short but good conceptual study of imperialism.

Trask, David. The War with Spain in 1898. New York and London, 1981. The best work on that conflict.

Weinberg, Albert K. Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History. Baltimore, 1935. Still a standard work on the ideology of continental expansion.

Williams, William Appleman. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. Cleveland, Ohio, 1959. An influential book that helped launch a revisionist movement in American diplomatic history and popularize an "Open Door School," which held that the economic goals of capitalism were central to the formation of U.S. foreign policy.

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Imperialism

THE ROOSEVELT COROLLARY

"It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save as are for their welfare. All this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power….

"Our interests and those of our southern neighbors are in reality identical. They have great natural riches, and if within their borders the reign of law and justice obtains, prosperity is sure to come to them."

— From President Theodore Roosevelt's annual message to Congress, 6 December 1904 —

Source Citation

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
Healy, David. "Imperialism." Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, edited by Richard Dean Burns, et al., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002, pp. 217-224. Gale Ebooks, https%3A%2F%2Flink.gale.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FCX3402300073%2FGVRL%3Fu%3Dmlin_m_newtnsh%26sid%3DGVRL%26xid%3D4ab47617. Accessed 14 Oct. 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3402300073

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